Eating well for a workout is essential. Only, no question of eating anything. For breakfast, we choose foods with a low glycemic index to burn calories and especially more fat. On the meal side, we put a diet rich in starches moderate in protein to be in shape during training. And above all, we need to wait at least 2 or 3 hours after a meal before starting any physical exercise!
Eating before sport: the basics
Every body, every goal, and every aspect specific to sport is different, but these 5 pillars are valid for everyone.
Even more important than eating is drinking enough. And not 5 minutes before exercise but all day. Do you train in the morning? So do not forget to drink enough the day before, especially in the evening.
Define your goals
When planning your pre-workout lunch, think about your goal: do you want to lose weight, build muscle, or improve your endurance? Then, adapt what you eat to that goal.
In general, it is rather a good idea to eat before sport. Whatever your goal. Training on an empty stomach can be very helpful for endurance. But when it concerns weight loss and muscle building: a meal or a snack before your workout will help you achieve your goals.
Find the right amount
It's not about stuffing yourself; it's about finding the right amount. For most athletes, a small barbell is fine before exercise.
Can you eat just before exercise?
It is better to give the body time to digest. Thus, to prevent digestion from disturbing the session, it is recommended that you wait 2 or 3 hours after eating before starting any workout. This is because the body needs to assimilate nutrients before it is challenged.
What should you eat before exercising?
It's a good idea to have a snack before a workout because the sugar will help you perform better. After a good snack, you can train more intensely because your metabolism has everything it needs to function at its maximum. Thus, you can reach your limits and your maximum performance. In short: your training is more effective, you make more progress, and you reach your goals faster.
The best before sport is to eat something easy to digest that gives a lot of energy. When you train in the evening, this goes for a lunch or a snack that you would eat just before the workout.
When you want to exercise after eating, the previous meal must be...
Low in fiber.
Low in lipids.
Rich in protein.
Rich in carbohydrates.
Suitable for your purpose.
Related: Balanced Living Nutrition; sports nutrition, importance, and basic principles
Don't skip on carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are essential for proper physical activity: they prevent hypoglycemia. After being ingested, carbohydrates concentrate in the liver and muscles as glycogen, which is the most readily available source of energy during exercise. Energy efficiency is nevertheless more sustainable when the athlete chooses carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (such as legumes, whole grain cereals, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, etc.) rather than high (such as potatoes, white bread, sugary drinks, etc.).
Consume low-fat protein
Athletes should not neglect their protein intake because it promotes energy stability. Of course, they also contribute to the maintenance of muscle tissue. Unfortunately, high-protein foods often contain many fats that should be avoided. It is, therefore, a question of identifying sources of low-fat protein: poultry (without the skin), fish, seafood, lean meats, eggs, tofu, low-fat yogurt, etc.
You should know that protein requirements vary according to the type of sport: from 1.2 to 1.6 g/kg of body weight for endurance sports (cycling, running, hiking), from 1.6 to 1 .8 for power sports (weightlifting, boxing, 100 m) or muscle mass development.
Limit fatty foods
Whether "good" or "bad" fats, limiting their consumption before sports activity is better. Lipids need a relatively long time to be digested. Digestion is therefore likely to continue during physical exercise and cause serious stomach discomfort.
Choose well-tolerated foods
The meal preceding intense physical activity is certainly not an opportunity to try new foods or even to choose foods that are used to causing discomfort, such as legumes, crucifers which can ferment and cause bloating, but also spicy or caffeine-rich foods. Some will cause flatulence, while others may stimulate peristalsis and make you want to have a bowel movement in full effort!
In addition, it is essential to drink enough before, during, and after exercise to avoid dehydration, allow the transport of nutrients, and reduce the risk of sustaining an injury. Water serves as a lubricant between the different tissues.
What to eat during sport?
“Eat only when you feel the need to.”
Effort ≤ 1h30: it is not necessary to eat; good hydration is enough. If the need for sugar is felt, then prepare yourself a small drink of effort (water + sodium + honey) or opt for electrolytes.
Effort ≥ 1h30: Beyond an hour of training, your body will start to demand sugar. For this, hydration and food during exercise will be faithful allies to overcome dehydration and low energy.
*It is essential to stay well hydrated throughout the session with small sips to make up for water losses and mineral losses (sodium, magnesium, and iron, in particular). In addition to the drink, choose an ultra-digestible snack that is easy to carry and eat. This will provide you with the necessary carbohydrates to compensate for energy losses.
What to eat after sport? We eat right away or wait a little?
After a sports session, there may be an interest in not eating directly after playing sports. The body and muscles continue to work for about 30 minutes after stopping physical activity. Many athletes (such as bodybuilders) also take advantage of this moment of transition between stopping activity and the 30 minutes that pass to consume protein "shakes," rich in carbohydrates and minerals to recharge muscles: this is called the metabolic window. This would be the ideal time to optimize muscle recovery by replenishing our nutrient reserves (even if opinions can sometimes still differ...).
Therefore, it is generally advisable to wait 1 hour after physical activity before eating something, or even 3 hours after a competition, and to continue to hydrate well. Then, one can move towards drinks rich in minerals to replenish glycogen stores. At the next meal, carbohydrates will be very important, especially raw and cooked vegetables and fruits which are alkalizing and will recharge the body with vitamins and minerals. We can also insist on raw fats rich in omega 3 (nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, etc.), which allow better assimilation of vitamins and minerals and restore cell membranes and proteins to repair and maintain the muscles used during exertion.
In conclusion, what you eat before, during, or after sport plays an essential role in energy and physical recovery. You should, therefore, not neglect your diet and your hydration to maintain a good state of health and aim for good sports performance. Keep your three meals a day, and do not hesitate to introduce a small snack into your food routine between the morning and evening meal to avoid snacking during the day. Now you can live in the top form of athletes!